Thursday, 27 May 2010 17:50

House Passes Financial Stability Act, Includes Office of National Insurance

The U.S. Senate passed the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010” May 20. S. 3217, authored by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, aims to promote financial stability by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end “too big to fail,” to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, and to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices.

S. 3217, which has been amended since originally passing the Senate Banking Committee, establishes an Office of National Insurance within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The office will be headed by a director who is to be appointed by the secretary of the treasury. The office’s main functions will be:

• to monitor all aspects of the insurance industry, including identifying issues or gaps in the regulation of insurers that could contribute to a systemic crisis in the insurance industry or the U.S. financial system;

• to recommend to the Financial Stability Oversight Council that it designate an insurer, including the affiliates of such insurer, as an entity subject to regulation as a nonbank financial company supervised by the Board of Governors pursuant to Title I of the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010;

• to assist the secretary in administering the Terrorism Insurance Program established in the Department of the Treasury under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002


• to coordinate federal efforts and develop federal policy on prudential aspects of international insurance matters, including representing the United States, as appropriate, in the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (or a successor entity) and assisting the secretary in negotiating International Insurance Agreements on Prudential Measures;

• to determine whether state insurance measures are preempted by International Insurance Agreements on Prudential Measures;

• to consult with the states (including state insurance regulators) regarding insurance matters of national importance and prudential insurance matters of international importance; and

• to perform such other related duties and authorities as may be assigned to the office by the secretary.

The Office of National Insurance is also required to conduct a study within 18 months of enactment and report to the Congress on how to modernize and improve insurance regulation:

• In General - Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this section, the director shall conduct a study and submit a report to Congress on how to modernize and improve the system of insurance regulation in the United States.

• Considerations - The study and report shall be based on and guided by the following considerations:

• Systemic risk regulation with respect to insurance.

• Capital standards and the relationship between capital allocation and liabilities, including standards relating to liquidity and duration risk.

• Consumer protection for insurance products and practices, including gaps in state regulation.

• The degree of national uniformity of state insurance regulation.

• The regulation of insurance companies and affiliates on a consolidated basis.

• International coordination of insurance regulation.

• Additional Factors - The study and report required under paragraph (1) shall also examine the following factors:

• The costs and benefits of potential federal regulation of insurance across various lines of insurance (except health insurance).

• The feasibility of regulating only certain lines of insurance at the federal level, while leaving other lines of insurance to be regulated at the state level.

• The ability of any potential federal regulation or federal regulators to eliminate or minimize regulatory arbitrage.

• The impact that developments in the regulation of insurance in foreign jurisdictions might have on the potential federal regulation of insurance.

• The ability of any potential federal regulation or federal regulator to provide robust consumer protection for policyholders.

• The potential consequences of subjecting insurance companies to a federal resolution authority, including the effects of any federal resolution authority

- on the operation of state insurance guaranty fund systems, including the loss of guaranty fund coverage if an insurance company is subject to a federal resolution authority;

- on policyholder protection, including the loss of the priority status of policyholder claims over other unsecured general creditor claims;

- in the case of life insurance companies, the loss of the special status of separate account assets and separate account liabilities; and

- on the international competitiveness of insurance companies.

- such other factors as the director determines necessary or appropriate, consistent with the principles set forth in paragraph (2).

• Required Recommendations - The study and report required under paragraph (1) shall also contain any legislative, administrative, or regulatory recommendations, as the director determines appropriate, to carry out or effectuate the findings set forth in such report.

• Consultation - With respect to the study and report required under paragraph (1), the director shall consult with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, consumer organizations, representatives of the insurance industry and policyholders, and other organizations and experts, as appropriate.

To view a complete summary of the legislation, along with the full text, visit ASA’s legislative website at

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